Bill would restore voting rights for ex-felons

Prison, Felons, Voting Rights, Elections
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A Democratic bill unveiled this week would allow former convicted felons released from prison to vote in federal elections.

The measure would create a uniform federal standard applicable to ex-felons who are no longer in prison. It would not apply to state elections.

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Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee and lead sponsor of the bill, said it would help former criminal offenders reintegrate into civil society. He also noted that preventing former prisoners from voting disproportionately affects racial minorities.

Nearly six million Americans cannot vote because of a felony conviction.

"Just as poll taxes and literacy tests prevented an entire class of citizens, namely African Americans, from integrating into society after centuries of slavery, ex-offender disenfranchisement laws prevent people from reintegrating into society after they have paid their debt by serving time in prison," Conyers said in a statement.

Sen. Ben CardinBen CardinMcConnell tees up House Puerto Rico bill GOP senators: Brexit vote a wake-up call Dems take over floor to protest Senate inaction on gun control MORE (D-Md.), who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, said the proposal would reduce confusion from varying state laws allowing ex-felons to participate in federal elections.

"State disenfranchisement laws deny citizens participation in our democracy and the patchwork of laws leads to an unfair disparity and unequal participation in federal elections based solely on where an individual lives, in addition to the racial disparities inherent in our judicial system," Cardin said. 

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